Cardamom Date Scones (Vegan)

Cardamom Date Scones

Cardamom Date Scones

As long-time followers of this blog know, I love doing variations on scones. Inspiration has struck again, and with Thanksgiving coming up, I thought now would be a good time to talk about “breakfast breads”. Pastries of various kinds figure into many breakfast menus, and though muffins aren’t a pastry, they’re usually included, but scones often don’t make the list. This is shame because you can do almost anything flavor-wise with a scone, and they’re easier faster and easier to make from scratch than any kind of pastry or muffin (with the possible exception of Every Day Muffins which are a make-ahead thing). So put aside your ideas of scones only for elevenses or late afternoon tea and think about fast easy scones for Thanksgiving morning when you’re up, in the kitchen, and looking for a delicious breakfast that doesn’t require the kind of extensive prep that the holiday meal does. You can browse the scone tag (which includes contributions from all the blog’s authors) or just go with these Cardamom Date Scones I’m making for breakfast on Thanksgiving this year. Flavored with cardamom, orange peel, and dates, these scones need very little added sugar, and the flavor is out of this world!

  • 2 1/2 cups organic flour
  • 1 Tbls baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbls sugar
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp dried orange peel (just the usual from grocery store spice aisle)
  • 8 Tbls margarine (1/2 cup)
  • ⅓ cup pitted Medjool dates, finely chopped
  • ½ cup organic soy milk (maybe a little more)

Preheat oven 425.

I used pitted Medjool dates for this. Dried date pieces would probably work too, but they’ll contribute less moisture to the recipe so a bit more liquid may be required.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and spices, then cut in margarine with a pastry cutter or fork. Work margarine in with your hands until evenly distributed and the mixture doesn’t have any conspicuous lumps. Then add the dates. If you used Medjool dates that you chopped yourself instead of dried pieces, you’ll need to break up the sticky clumps with your hands and work them into the mixture until it’s more or less homogeneous. Add the soy milk. The dough should come together with a little kneading and not be too dry. If it doesn’t feel right, you can add a tiny splash more milk.

Divide the dough into two balls, then flatten them into rounds (about an inch or so thick) on an ungreased baking sheet. Cut each round into six wedges. Separate the wedges so they aren’t touching.

Bake in preheated oven 12 mins or until toothpick comes out clean. Serve with a mug of strong black tea. I’ve noticed that the flavor of the spices (the cardamom in particular) seem stronger when the scones are fresh and hot, right out of the oven. But they’re still quite good the next day (assuming you have any left)!

Boiled Raisin Cake

boiled raisin cake 1

Boiled raisin cake is a Christmas staple in our house.  My Aunt Connie wrote out the recipe when she was twelve years old and gave it to my mom who has been making this cake ever since.  (Family trivia:  the recipe from Aunt Connie is still tucked away in one of my mother’s cookbooks.)  If you celebrate the twelve days of Christmas as do those of us living in this part of the world, you still have plenty of time to make it; after all, Christmas is not over until 06 January!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb Earth Balance butter
  • 2 cups sugar (organic)
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups raisins

 

  • 3 cups of flour (all-purpose or spelt)
  • 2 tsp baking soda

Combine first six ingredients in a saucepan and boil for 2 minutes, stirring often.  Place the hot saucepan in a sink of cold water to cool.  Add the flour and baking soda.  Pour into a greased tube pan and bake at 300 degrees (F) for 2 hours.

boiled raisin cake 2

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When left out for Santa, this cake is traditionally served with strawberry Purity syrup, a thick and very sweet syrup that is mixed with water.  Santa loves it!

Holiday Parties: The Sticky Business of RSVPs

usualsuspects-0153.jpg‘Tis the season for parties! Whether you’re throwing parties or going to parties, RSVPs are not optional. I love throwing parties, both large and small. I love cooking for parties. Indeed the only bad part of a party are those pesky RSVPs. There are two conflicting aspects to RSVPs: the host’s need to know how many are coming, and the strange ways people invited to parties think about RSVPs. Whether you’re throwing a party or going to a party this holiday season, I hope this post will shed some light on the Mystery of the Missing RSVPs!

Those people who don’t RSVP in a timely manner often have a “one more won’t make any difference” attitude. They are, of course, correct that one more won’t substantially alter the amount of food prepared, but if five people — and their spouses and children — think that, then the total number for party in which 2 dozen people have said “yes” is suddenly increased to around 3 dozen. That does make a difference. In the case of a smaller party, if 4-5 people show up or RSVP a couple of hours before the party starts, the host may be faced with twice the people and only half as much food! By the way, grabbing a dessert at the store on the way doesn’t compensate: five desserts does not make up for the five more substantial servings that are missing due to not letting the host know you were coming before she or he buys the groceries. (Ditto for catered parties!)

I think a lot of people don’t have a clear idea of what it takes to plan and throw a party. For instance, I have to know in advance how much food to buy. Even if it’s a small casual thing; I still need to know whether I’m cooking for 6-8 people or 2-3. It makes a huge difference in how much food I buy, and can affect the menu. (One side dish or three?) The host or hostess can’t assume that no response is either “No” or “Yes”. Responding “Maybe” is almost as bad. I know people who always give me “maybe”s right up until the minute they show up on my doorstep. They will never commit one way or another because they’re waiting to see if something better comes along for the weekend. They want to keep their options open, see what all the offers are, and then decide within a few hours of the party. A friend of mine, when someone gave him the runaround of “maybe” because they wanted to keep their options open for a better offer, then just told the person, “Fine. Don’t come.” And never invited them to another party. If you jerk people around, you could find yourself dropped from some people’s party invitation distribution list. (I haven’t done this, but I cheered the friend who did.)

Not RSVPing because you’re waiting to see if something better presents itself is not very nice…and makes party prep a nightmare. For instance, for a big Christmas party I will do most of the grocery shopping 5-6 days ahead and cookie baking starts 4-5 days ahead. Fresh vegetable items or other perishables are bought a couple of days before the party. Some food prep is done 2 days ahead and some cooking and prep is done the day before. RSVPing the day before or the morning of an afternoon party to say you will be coming is as bad as not responding at all. It’s not any help at all for the person who’s already bought the food and is rattling around in the kitchen when the phone rings. (On a number of occasions I’ve had someone RSVP literally hours before a party they’ve known about for weeks.)

This is why I send reminders, do follow-up phone calls and basically plead with people to let me know if they’re coming. Not RSVPing causes a lot of unnecessary aggravation for the person who invited you. They’ve invited you to a party; they’re going to feed you good food. The very least you can do to show your appreciation to them is to give a definite RSVP, even if you have to say “No, sorry”. It’s the season of Good Cheer, of Peace on Earth, and Goodwill to your fellow beings on this planet. Be gracious and considerate to those who invite you to parties. That means RSVPing soon after you get the invitation.

I know you’re probably saying that if you don’t RSVP, or RSVP late, that it’s not because you are waiting to see if you get a better offer, but stop and think about that for a minute…what, exactly, are you waiting for? Surely if a worse option presented itself you wouldn’t plump for that instead of a party a friend is throwing? If you wait, you’re always waiting for something better. When you drag your heels about RSVPing you’re really saying to the person who invited you that you don’t give a damn about them or their party — which they are busting their ass to prepare for. (And if you feel that way, you really should just say “No” up front.)

Sure, there are sometimes extenuating circumstances that make it hard to give a firm answer. Say, an elderly parent in the hospital or other extreme circumstance that you have no control over and which might at any minute require your presence. Read that italicized phrase again. If the reason you haven’t RSVP’d doesn’t fit that criteria, you need to RSVP now. Don’t whine that you don’t know what you are doing at the time of the party, so you can’t RSVP until “later”. You’re just fooling yourself, but you’re not fooling anyone else. Make a damn decision. If you drag your heels then you’re just another jerk “waiting to see if there’s something better” and you’re insulting the people who thought enough of you to invite you to their party. The cases in which you can’t RSVP in a timely manner are rare occurrences, unless you’re James Bond or your life is such a living hell that you are living from crisis to crisis, minute by minute and day to day. (In which case, you really do need to party.)

If you truly don’t want to go, just say no. If you’re hoping something will come up so you can get out of a social situation you don’t want to go to, there’s no reason to delay RSVPing. Since you never intended to go, go ahead and say you won’t be there. (Social networks, and online invitations make this painless; you can say no and don’t have to stammer through an excuse.) Even though you’re declining the invitation, by RSVPing soon, you at least won’t be causing any problems for the host planning the party.

Sometimes something unexpected that you have no control over happens and you may have to bow out at the last minute. Sick kids, car trouble, the unexpected arrival of relatives, some disaster at work you have to deal with, the earth being threatened by super villains, etc. If you RSVP “yes” then can’t make it due to circumstances beyond your control, the friends hosting the party will understand, because we’ve all had our plans wrecked from time to time by events beyond our control. But, you know, you need to make those plans!

Remember: “Maybes” are utterly useless to the person throwing the party. Even if you know the party will be catered so they’re not buying, prepping, and cooking the food themselves, they have to put in an order for food for a certain number of people well ahead of time. If they have to guess because of non-responders and “maybe”s, then you’ve either caused them to waste food and money by getting too much, or are responsible for wrecking the party because there won’t be enough food. (If you didn’t RSVP or RSVP’d late, you don’t get to bitch about a party being lame because they ran out of food.)

Most people are so scheduled — or over-scheduled — that they know if a time is free at least a week in advance, maybe more. There is no legitimate excuse for not RSVPing, or waiting until it’s too late to RSVP.

So what do you do if you’re throwing a party and people don’t RSVP? You can beg and whine for RSVPs. You can do like the friend of mine who stopped inviting people who wouldn’t RSVP. You can set a deadline for RSVPs and send reminders. You can’t yell at them, but you can share this on social networks and hope they get the hint. After all you aren’t calling them on their gaffe…I am! 😉

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

These cookies are rapidly becoming a Christmas favorite. Click the pic for recipe!

Hazelnut Scones Three Ways

Hazelnut scones with mini-chocolate chips

Hazelnut scones with mini-chocolate chips

I threw this together because I wanted something a bit different for Thanksgiving morning, but with the variations they’re the perfect yummy scone for any time.  I usually make cranberry scones for Thanksgiving morning, but I had some hazelnuts on hand so decided to use them to make up a new recipe. It took two tries to get it just right. After that I went on to make this recipe without the cranberries, then — because it’s such a natural combination — I made a batch using chocolate which debuted at my Hair of the Dog Brunch this year. So here it is: plain hazelnut scones, hazelnut scones with dried cranberries, and hazelnut scones with mini-chocolate chips. Easy and delicious. 😀

Plain hazelnut scones, hot from the oven.

Plain hazelnut scones, hot from the oven.

1 1/4 cups of ground hazelnuts
1 1/4 cups flour
1Tbls baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbls sugar
8 Tbls Smart Balance Original margarine
1/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries (optional) OR 1/4 cup mini-chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup milk (Silk Organic Unsweetened Soy Milk may be substituted)

Preheat oven 425.

If you don’t have access to hazelnut meal (which I’ve rarely seen), do like I do and grind hazelnuts into a meal in either a coffee grinder or food processor. The meal will be soft and fluffy so it needs to be pressed down in the measuring cup to get an accurate measure. It only takes seconds to make the small amount of meal needed for the recipe, so this extra step in scone making does not add an appreciable amount of time or effort to the preparation.

Mix dry ingredients, cut in margarine with a fork, pastry blender, or your fingers. (Then toss in dried sweetened cranberries or mini-chocolate chips if desired.) Add milk. Stir until it forms a sticky dough. Form into a dozen balls, about 2 inches in diameter, I’d guess.

Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 425 for 15 minutes. (Your oven may vary. Scones should be slightly browned on top and done all the way through.)

While the scones are in the oven make a pot of tea or coffee. Relax. Enjoy. 🙂

Bonus Post: Rocky Road Confection and Flash Fiction

This week’s Toasted Cake podcast has yummy flash fiction with gingerbread people and a recipe for what sounds like a very yummy Rocky Road type holiday confection. I’m behind on my holiday baking, but it’s on the list! 😉 Check out the podcast here. It’s short, fun, and delicious! 😀

Cheater’s Fudge

I mentioned Eagle brand milk in an earlier post about my Pumpkin Pie recipe. It’s also the magic ingredient that turns chocolate chips into fudge. Don’t have the time, patience or knowledge to make candy for Christmas? Try what I call “Cheater’s Fudge” and no one will ever know you didn’t make it from scratch. 😉 Unless you tell them. Which I do. A lot. 😀 This recipe made the rounds in magazines (advertisements, I think) several years ago and has been passed around ever since. You can find it on the Eagle Brand milk site. If you haven’t tried this, it’s the easiest fudge you’ll ever make. The recipe I have differs from the one on the website in only two tiny ways: I use 1 tsp vanilla extract and the recipe on the site calls for 1 1/2 tsp. Also the recipe I have mentions nuts as optional (though doesn’t give the amount). I’ve never added nuts. A bonus to doing fudge this way is that you can make “fudge” out of different types of chocolate chips. I know someone who makes this using milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet. Sometimes mint chocolate chips are also available. I haven’t tried this with white chocolate, peanut butter chips or butterscotch, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. If you do this with some non-standard candy chips, drop a comment and let me know how it turns out! 🙂

Pie Awry

Pumpkin pie is a holiday favorite of mine. Although I often make it for Thanksgiving as well as Christmas, it’s very firmly rooted in our Christmas traditions, too. Pumpkin pie has been my traditional Christmas breakfast for as far back as I can remember. 🙂

When I was a kid I used to make pumpkin pie with my mom. I’d turn the mixing bowl (an old style mixer that had a turntable you turned by hand under the beaters) and pour in ingredients. Mom would make the pie crust and set aside a small amount of dough so I could roll out a little pie crust right next to hers. A little bit of the filling went for my mini pie which was baked in a left-over aluminum pot-pie pan. (Frozen dinners and frozen pot-pies were common fare.) It must have baked for less time than the big pie, but I don’t remember that. As it turned out there were a lot of things I’d forgotten by the time I left home. I didn’t do as much holiday baking with my mother when I was a teenager, but my mother didn’t do as much either because by then my grandmother was in a nursing home, so there was one less person to help in the kitchen and one less person to bake for and many more visits to the nursing home after work during the holiday season. Though Mom didn’t bake as much and I didn’t help as much, she still made pumpkin pie.

When I got married and moved away our first Thanksgiving was fraught with anxiety. I could hardly cook anything so even though I had my mother’s instructions there were still phone calls — including a panic-stricken call to Mom about the pumpkin pie as I stared in dismay at the soup in the mixing bowl. It had been so many years since I’d rolled out dough and turned the mixer next to my mother that I didn’t remember that pumpkin pie filling was soupy when it’s all mixed up. I looked at that liquid in the bowl and thought: That can’t be right. I didn’t see how that could possibly turn into a solid pie. I didn’t know then, as I do now, that pumpkin pie is essentially a custard. Mom reassured me and I went on to make the best pumpkin pie I’d ever had in my life. It was better than my mother’s pie! How often does that ever happen to new cooks? 😀

It wasn’t until talking to Mom about the pie making at Christmas that I found out why. When I mentioned casually something about one of the ingredients my mother’s mouth dropped open. She was flabbergasted. I’d used a wrong ingredient. I didn’t know much about cooking. I didn’t realize that there was a huge difference between “Eagle brand milk” and “evaporated milk”! The recipe called for a can of evaporated milk. Eagle brand milk is canned sweetened condensed milk. “No wonder the pie is so rich and creamy!” Mom exclaimed. She shook her head and pointed out that there aren’t too many recipes where you can substitute sweetened condensed milk for evaporated milk and not ruin the recipe! But in the case of pumpkin pie, it works great. I’ve used a can of Eagle brand milk in my pumpkin pie ever since and told everyone my secret. Maybe eventually my stupid mistake could become the standard for pumpkin pie as word spreads. (Eagle brand milk is very common in Texas and the South, but I’m not actually sure if it’s that common throughout the US —and I doubt you’d find it in other countries, though I wouldn’t be surprised if other countries didn’t have a version of it.)

After that first happy accident, I haven’t screwed with the pumpkin pie recipe, but Libby’s — who makes the canned pumpkin I use — has messed with cooks everywhere. The recipe my mother and I used is one off the Libby’s can, an old Libby’s can as it turns out. You can find the revised recipe on the official Nestle baking site. This is identical to the recipe my family has always used, except the original recipe calls for 1 16oz can of Libby’s solid pack pumpkin and a 14 1/2 oz can of Carnation evaporated milk. The cans of pumpkin are now only 15 ozs. The cans of evaporated milk are now only 12 oz. So, if you think your pumpkin pie doesn’t ever come out like your mother’s or grandmother’s pumpkin pie, even though you’re using the same off-the-can recipe, this may be why. It might explain why I encounter so many pumpkin pies whose consistency is slightly “off”. I bake the pie until a toothpick comes out clean and the cooking time is usually slightly longer than the 45 mins the original recipe called for. (The version on the website gives the cooking time as 40-50 mins.) Cans of evaporated milk and Eagle Brand milk, did not hold the same amount but both, like the pumpkin — have also changed over the years. Eagle Brand milk used to come in 15 oz cans: the cans are now 14 oz. Carnation Evaporated milk used to come in 14.5 oz cans. It now comes in 12 oz cans! (I think it has suffered two downsizings because I find references to 13 oz cans in old recipes.)

To be clear: I substitute  1 14 oz can of Eagle Brand milk for the 12 oz can of evaporated milk, and I use the 15 oz cans of Libby’s pumpkin (not even realizing until recently that the amount had changed). Right now the recipe still works, but if the amounts in cans of pumpkin and milk continue to change, the time may come when amount of eggs and spices may need to be slightly adjusted .

This change in the size of cans and jars is something cooks need to be aware of. Sometimes it won’t make enough difference to notice, but sometimes it will, particularly with a custard (like pumpkin pie) which needs the solids and liquids to balance just so in order to set properly. There was a news story a while back about how manufacturers were cutting the amount of everything in order to avoid raising prices in a bad economy. Everything from cans and jars to boxes of detergent. Everything. Caveat emptor.

Cornbread Dressing

People love cornbread dressing. It’s traditional at Thanksgiving, but the popularity of “dressing” or “stuffing” (even when there’s nothing being stuffed except friends and family) has spawned various boxes of “instant” dressing so that you can have it with any meal. I haven’t tried the boxed versions, but I can tell you how to make it from scratch. It’s easy! 😀

First make up a batch (or two) of Granny’s Cornbread. This is the basis of the dressing. (My mother and grandmother always added crumbled stale white bread that had been left out to get stale just for this purpose, but I omit this.) Saute green onions, bell pepper and celery in a small amount of oil in a skillet. (If you’re making gravy, reserve some of the green onion and bell pepper to be sauted and added to the gravy.) I cook up a lot of “the green stuff” (as we called it around our house when I was growing up). After crumbling up the cornbread (let it cool or you’ll regret it), stir in the green stuff mixture until the proportion looks right. Add some vegetarian broth and stir in until you have a moist mixture, wetter than you prefer to eat it because some of that moisture will cook away when you bake it. Stir in a bit of sage (or whatever seasoning you prefer for stuffing). Bake 350 until the top is slightly browned and crispy. Stir and serve. If it’s too dry, add a bit more broth. If it’s too moist, return to the oven. There really isn’t a set time for it to be “done” because all the ingredients are already cooked, though the seasoning needs a bit of heat to really meld with the flavor of the stuffing. It’s done when it looks right to you.

The problem most people have with holiday dressing is that some people will think it didn’t come out right because it’s too dry, while for other people it will be just right. Likewise some people will find it disgustingly wet while others think it’s just right. There’s no way to please everyone unless everyone likes their dressing the exact same way. Myself, I prefer a dry-ish stuffing, with just enough moisture that if you grabbed a handful and squeezed it, it would stick together, but tending to crumble a bit as you scoop it out. Dressing that has the consistency of mush and is served with an ice cream scoop is too wet for me. 😉 It seems to me that dressing that tends more toward dry than wet is the best way to go because I always dress the dressing with gravy. 😀 If anyone complains that the dressing is too dry, pass them the gravy boat! 😀

As you can see, there are countless ways to modify this recipe. The herbs you use will put a stamp on the flavor, as will the amount of celery you use. Using regular onions instead of green onions are an option (green onions snip up so fast that aside from being traditional in my family, they’re much faster to prep), and if you want to shock your guests you could slip some hot chiles into the mix instead of bell pepper. Garlic fiends might want to saute some garlic with the green stuff. It would guarantee the holiday wouldn’t be crashed by vampires out looking for a good time since Halloween. 😉

Candied Yams — and Baked Sweet Potatoes

This is an old family recipe and much simpler and easier than some holiday sweet potato recipes. Notice that I wrote “sweet potatoes” when the recipe is “candied yams”. I’m not going to get into the difference between them here. Despite the title, the tubers that you’ll use to make this dish are sweet potatoes. Chances are that no matter what your grocery store calls them, what you see in the store are probably sweet potatoes. If they are an autumnal russet hue and have orange flesh, they are sweet potatoes. I’m presenting the recipe here as I wrote it down many years ago when my mother told me how to make it. This was around the time I left home and I recall quizzing my mother on the preparation of various holiday dishes. This recipe has been passed down in our family and is probably rather old, which is why it doesn’t have any fancy foodie additions to it. (If you want to fancy it up, a quick internet search for “candied yams” will give you an alarming assortment of ideas.) I have to confess that I haven’t made it in years. I loved it as a kid—what kid doesn’t like cinnamon and sugar? But as an adult, it’s sometimes too sweet for my tastes. Probably because my mother never measured the amount of sugar and every time I made it I just sprinkled and guessed…and sometimes guessed wrong! 😉 Below are my mother’s instructions, with some parenthetical asides by me. 😉

Peel yams (which are actually sweet potatoes). Cut into pieces or slices. Use a pan with a lid. Sprinkle cinnamon over the potatoes and a generous amount of sugar (see, that’s what got me into trouble…that word “generous”). Use a Tbls or two of margarine and dot around over the potatoes. (I think I’ve used more than 2 dots of margarine.) Add a small amount of water to the pan…just enough to help them get started cooking. Leave the fire turned up high until they start cooking (yes, she referred to the electric burner as “the fire”), then put the lid on the pot and lower the fire and let simmer until done. Stir occasionally.

Baked Sweet Potatoes: These days when I cook sweet potatoes I wrap them in foil as I would russet potatoes, then bake the hell out of them. This takes considerably longer than “candied yams” because in my experience it takes more than an hour to bake a sweet potato until it’s soft and done, but this depends on the size of the potatoes and the temperature of the stove. I usually don’t fuss about it much; I just wrap them up and put them in the oven any place I can with whatever else is baking (if it’s a holiday there’s always something in the oven…) and bake at whatever the oven happens to be, checking them for doneness after an hour and then guestimating how much longer they’ll need (if they aren’t done) or pulling them out and finishing them in the microwave. If you have the oven space to spare I’d recommend baking them on a baking sheet because sometimes, particularly if they are somewhat over-done, they will leak a small amount of juice from the folds of the foil which will drop sizzling into the oven if they’re just laid on the oven rack. This isn’t always an option with oven space usually being at a premium for big holiday meals, but at least you’ve been warned. 😉 If you don’t over-cook them you’re less likely to have a problem, but with people in and out, ongoing  food preparation and just visiting with friends and family as the holiday meal is prepared, it’s easy to lose track of time if you leave them in for “just a little while longer”. 😉

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving

I’d been turning over the Thanksgiving-vegetarian thing in my mind for a couple of years before I finally hit on a good way to do it. The biggest problem to substituting something else for the turkey comes not from figuring out something that could substitute as the food, but also — and perhaps more importantly — something that would fit into with the holiday spirit and be festive, fun and something that non-vegetarian family and friends will enjoy, too.

Finally, two years ago I had an epiphany: what gives the Thanksgiving meal and holiday its vibe isn’t the elaborate meal with a large main dish: it’s the festive atmosphere. The idea I hit upon was to have a cook-out for Thanksgiving. One of the advantages of a cookout is that it automatically has a festive atmosphere. Cookouts are parties. They are sublimely social.

A cookout has a lot of overlap with Thanksgiving’s vibe. Cookouts are often, like traditional Thanksgivings, “potluck” in that everyone brings something to the feast and is involved to some extent in the preparation of the meal, (in this case, including tending the grill). It’s a communal meal. There’s always too much food and everyone tends to overeat. Thanksgiving & cookouts share a casual party vibe. I think the whole cookout idea should work out pretty well for those of you who live in a climate warm enough to do some of the cooking outdoors. If you think cooking out is an odd way to celebrate Thanksgiving, consider this: for people attending football games on Thanksgiving, tailgate parties are basically a Thanksgiving cookout. Ditto for those who fry their turkeys, which is also an outdoor activity. Lots of people do al fresco Thanksgiving cooking…we’re just taking it a step further by making it meatless.

Thanksgiving has always been about community from the very first Thanksgiving (or our idealized version of it). It is also about family, so unless you have a non-vegetarian family who is inflexible about holiday traditions, non-vegetarian family members can be comfortably included in a vegetarian Thanksgiving cookout. People who balk at Tofurkey, will probably not have that reaction to a huge succulent portobella mushroom burger, which will likely be devoured without a murmur. 😉

If not…then the carnivores of the clan can bring their own burgers and use the grill after the vegetarian food has been cooked. Obviously that’s not an option if the very idea of meat freaks you out, but as mixed vegetarian and non-vegetarian Thanksgiving options go this is better than vegetarians eating their tofurkey while sitting in front of a Big Dead Bird which everyone else is eating. Encourage everyone to have the mushrooms and veggie burgers, but don’t pitch a fit if someone brings their own food for the grill. It’s bad for digestion…and there’s going to be a lot of delicious things to digest!

The first year we did this I experimented with making spicy bean burgers…which fell apart on the grill.  😯 By Thanksgiving last year I had discovered LightLife’s vegetarian burgers, which I love. They make three different burgers: the regular veggie burger, a portabello burger which has mushrooms incorporated in the patty, and the Backyard Grillin’ Burgers. Of the three, the latter is the best and most savory, though the portabello patties are really excellent, too. Their regular veggie burgers taste good, but once you’ve had one of the others, you’ll never look back! Of course, anytime we grill I have to throw some whole portabello mushrooms on the grill, so there’s no escaping the ‘shrooms in my household!

Here’s some cookout recipes that I’ve made for our Thanksgiving cookout.

Cookout (portabella burgers)
Frankenslaw
Potato Salad
BBQ Baked Beans
Gingerbread
…and, of course, LightLife’s Backyard Grillin’ Burgers

I’ll have my recipe for pumpkin pie on the blog later in the month, but last year, knowing how utterly stuffed we were on food the year before, I made Ginger Bread for dessert. I swear, there’s more food every year and with others bringing dessert, too, pie would’ve been overkill.

I think a cookout is a good Thanksgiving option for a mixed group of people: vegetarians won’t have to face a Big Dead Bird and non-vegetarians won’t have to face tofurkey. A cookout should keep everyone in their comfort zone — and Thanksgiving should be fun, not stressful or conflicted.

If you want an indoor vegan Thanksgiving, nancis posted a wonderful account of her Vegan Thanksgiving recently. I’ll be posting some family recipes for some traditional Thanksgiving fare: candied yams, cornbread dressing, and pumpkin pie, throughout the month.